Inside Charlie's Chocolate Factory

This book was written, says author Lucy Mangan, for all those who loved Charlie and the Chocolate Factory when they were young, and those who love it now. That would be me, and I wasn't disappointed by Inside Charlie's Chocolate Factory: The Complete Story of Willy Wonka, The Golden Ticket, and Roald Dahl's Most Famous Creation (Puffin, 2014). Dahl's granddaughter Sophie provides the forward, in which we learn how to pronounce Roald ("long stretched Roo, al like the end of mall, silent D") and that she never could: she called him Mold. The rest of Inside Charlie's Chocolate Factory is likewise full of fascinating tidbits of information, family photographs, manuscript pages (longhand and typewritten), and illustrations from the British and American editions of Charlie. There's also a whole chapter ("Television Chocolate") on the stage and screen adaptations of Dahl's book, none of which I've seen, but interesting nonetheless.

As far I'm concerned, though, the whipple-scrumptious fudgemallow delight here is the first chapter, "Sugar-Coated Pencils: Writing the Book." (The pencils were actually Dixon Ticonderogas, which Dahl started using in the US and later had sent over to England specially.) Sadly, tragedy struck the Dahl family twice during the writing of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory; but Mangan doesn't dwell on it, moving on to an analysis of the manuscripts (altogether there are five in existence; an earlier one was lost), and the editorial and revision process that led to the finished book, published in 1964--making this the golden anniversary of the golden tickets.

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Dahl's first choice of illustrator for Charlie and the Chocolate Factory was none other than Maurice Sendak, who was unavailable at the time (probably working on Where the Wild Things Are). Instead, Joseph Schindelman illustrated the American edition; Dahl's other illustrators include Faith Jacques, Michael Foreman, and, famously, Quentin Blake. I grew up with Schindelman's illustrations (that's my very own battered paperback), and they're still my favorites, but it's fun to compare all four versions of everyone from Willy Wonka to the Oompa-Loompas in Mangan's chapter on illustration, "Behind the Gates of the Chocolate Factory: A Visual Tour." Not surprisingly, my kids like Quentin Blake's illustrations best, and even I have to admit that Dahl and Blake go together like chocolate and...more chocolate, which is just how Roald Dahl would have it.

[Ages 12 up. Reviewed from library copy. 100% of author royalties from the sale of this book are donated to the Roald Dahl charities. Be sure to check the jacket flap for your very own golden ticket!]